Expanded Definition of Success for the Sports Events and Tourism Industry
By Jennifer Stoll, PhD, STS
For many years, the primary metric for success among sports events and tourism organizations has been economic impact, usually equivocated with hotel room night generation. In other words, sports events and tourism’s primary objective was to solicit non-local travelers to a destination resulting in maximum room-night generation – commonly referred to as “heads in beds.”
As the industry has evolved, it has become apparent that hosting sporting events in a certain locale provides deeper value than solely counting heads in beds. However, despite the growing body of evidence underscoring the widening value of sports events and tourism efforts on the local community, industry-accepted expanded metrics of success have significantly lagged.
Confining the scope of industry success to room nights presents several limitations to the industry: It does not account for the reality that a variety of reasons exist for hosting an event, not all of which center on filling hotel rooms. This is the why of the event. Every event is different and thus, has a different rationale profile when determining whether to host/build the event and measuring its success. The ranking and scoring of these rationales are also highly audience dependent.
For example, a community may host an event due to the platform it provides to enhance the destination's brand perception and awareness, or earned media, rather than due to economic impact. This is often the case with large-scale sporting events due to the incremental costs associated with hosting. The collective sports events and tourism industry would be wise to embrace a substantial expansion of what success means and how it is measured.
It limits the ability of sports events and tourism operators from telling the whole story, which is comprised of many facets beyond lodging occupancy. By telling a more complete story about the value of sports events and tourism entity eorts, we can expand funding mechanisms, build ambassadorship, and increase overall organizational sustainability. Short changing the story of events in our destinations stifles our ability to leverage those impacts into broader community value propositions. For example, contribution to the quality of life that is then conveyed in the business recruitment efforts of a community.
Also, it compromises the industry’s innovation and advocacy potential. Prior to – and now during the pandemic – industry organizations from all segments (destinations, rights holders, industry partners, etc.) find themselves in a crucial position to understand, prove, and articulate a wider value chain back to the community more than ever before. There are small pockets of our forward-thinking industry colleagues who have begun forging through the brush to bring attention to other metrics of success. However, the collective sports events and tourism industry would be wise to embrace a substantial expansion of what success means and how it is measured. Not only is the expanded definition of success conversation emerging in the U.S., but parallel conversations are also occurring at international sport levels as well.
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